This is a guest post from Kenneth Reaves.
Japan is a beautiful destination with a seamless blend of rich traditions and modern technology. Bustling streets, amazing cuisine, lush landscapes, and exciting activities characterise this country, making it a perfect destination for every type of traveller.
Flying to an entirely different country means getting out of your comfort zone and exploring a new culture. But with its distinct culture, etiquette, and language, it’s essential to know a few things about the country’s practices and beliefs before heading to Japan. In this article we have listed five essential things you need to know before visiting Japan, to make sure your trip is fun and worthwhile:
1. Tipping Is Not Customary
The culture of tipping may be customary and even expected in some countries, but not in Japan. People expect to help others and to perform their jobs well, without anticipating a tip. In fact, if you tip a server, there’s a good chance that they’ll return your money, or run after you if you left cash on the table. In some cases tipping may even be regarded as an insult.
This rule applies to all services including restaurants, taxis, salons, and hotels.
2. English Translations Aren’t Always Available
Be prepared to encounter signs and menus with no English translations. In a popular tourist city like Tokyo, this might not be so much of a problem. However, once you venture into the remote areas of Japan, you’ll be surprised to see the lack of English translations. This is where a basic knowledge of Japanese words could come in useful. It is also possible to use an English-Japanese translation application like iTranslate, Papago, or Waygo to communicate with locals.
3. Follow Japanese Train Etiquette
The trains in Japan are punctual, efficient, and convenient, but you need to be aware of train etiquette. This boils down to two things: be considerate and respectful of other passengers, and don’t cause any disturbance. For instance, eating on a train is only common when taking a long-distance train, such as the Shinkansen bullet train.
Other unspoken subway rules include avoiding loud conversations, particularly if you’re travelling in a large group, and being mindful of the noise blaring out from your headphones. You should also avoid sitting in the priority seating areas since these are reserved for the elderly, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
4. Don’t Jump The Queue
Japanese people usually form queues in front of restaurants, shops, and other establishments. Standing in long lines may exercise your patience, but if you cut a queue – whether on purpose or accidentally – you will earn the ire of others, particularly older people. So make sure that you always line up properly!
5. Tattoos Are Considered Taboo
Tattoos are not illegal in Japan, but they can prevent tourists from getting the full Japanese experience. The stigma against tattoos is strong – so powerful that they are commonly banned in public areas such as pools, beaches, gyms, and onsens (hot spring baths). Keep in mind that visible tattoos may be offensive to some locals, so it’s best to cover them up by using accessories, wearing long sleeves, or applying makeup to the area.
Japan has a rich culture and incredible natural sights. However the local people have a high regard for their customs and beliefs and, as a tourist, you need to familiarise yourself with the basic etiquette of the country. It’s the best way to ensure an enjoyable vacation!
Kenneth Reaves is a globetrotter and passionate angler. He runs a blog named Perfect Captain, where he shares his professional insight and advice on fishing tips and equipment.